What Exactly is Project-based Work?

I strongly believe in the power of project-based work as a means to find work-life fit and as a way for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and “starters” to grow and scale their businesses. Project-based work will be a critical component of the work of the future.

Obviously, I’m biased; I’ve been doing project-based work for 10+ years via my own consulting firm Lau Labs and I’ve been helping others find and complete project-based work via FlexTeam for the last three and a half years. I’ve seen small companies use project-based work to gain a better sense of their business needs via new financial models. I’ve worked with women, who are in the first few months or weeks of motherhood, on projects that have allowed them to still feel connected to their careers. I’ve seen entrepreneurs pursue (or not pursue) new markets or products after getting an outsider’s analysis and report on the competitor landscape.

I’ve seen firsthand the promise of project-based work. But I often get blank stares, initially, when I talk about project-based work.

What exactly is project-based work?

Project-based work are specific projects with clear milestones and deliverables. If needs change, the scope of work can be expanded by mutual agreement. Project-based work can be entirely remote, or have in person requirements.

Project-based workers (contractors) work for a specific number of weeks or months until the project is completed. They may or may not work at the client’s office or equipment. They can’t be told exactly how to perform her job or be told she can only work for you. And project-based workers can’t be called employees.

Why use project-based consultants / workers?

Project-based workers often bring skills and experiences from a range of challenging roles, often across many industries. Oftentimes, project-based workers have the ability to see innovation as a part of their working method rather than just a buzzword. They’ve developed flexibility, the ability to make sense of uncertainty and complex ideas, and an understanding of how to communicate new ideas and roll them out quickly.

In short, the insights they provide are often worth far more than the hourly, daily, monthly, or project-based rates charged.

Let me give you a few short examples of project-based work.

Assessing your competition. It’s not enough for your company to be doing well. If you aren’t taking a look at your competitors on a regular basis, you’re apt to miss the boat on market trends that could drastically change your industry. Project-based consultants can provide you a report of your competitors.

Generate written content. You have ideas you want to communicate. Ideas that set your company or your personal brand apart. Project-based consultants can help take your outlines or bare-boned ideas to help you generate blog content, white papers, press releases, and more!

Generate social media content. We all know social media marketing is important, but we don’t all execute on it. There always seems to be other priorities. Project-based consultants can help you do the leg work of creating content.

Create marketing strategy. Speaking of the importance of marketing, we also know it’s not enough to simply post stuff on social media. It’s best to have an overarching strategy that helps you direct your efforts. Project-based consultants can analyze your existing marketing strategy and provide recommendations for best practices in your industry, and craft a strategy tailored to your specific company. What is the right combination of paid and organic marketing across multiple channels? Project-based work can help.

Helping you craft a go-to-market strategy for a new product or service for either an existing company or a new one. For an existing company, the new product could either be an entirely new line of business, a variation of a current product, or something in between. Project-based consultants can help you determine the best strategy to go-to-market, provide a report to help you implement the strategy, and could help you implement the strategy.

Perform data analysis. Any business that neglects data an analysis will be left behind. Every company has some data that can be collected and analyzed to make operations more efficient, or enter new markets, or help make decisions about creating new products or services. Project-based consultants can get this done for you, though data experts usually have higher hourly rates.

Help you with gut checks. Sometimes you just need a quick 1–4 hour call with an expert to help you gut check your current strategy, and project-based consultants are perfect for this kind of work.

Determine where to cut costs. Every company needs a robust and professional financial model that accurately models your business. Project-based consultants can help you create a financial model from scratch, working with your managers on the important assumptions, and help you update existing financial models.

Help you research just about anything. Need a deep dive report on subscription based companies that rent products and an analysis of the differences and opportunity for new entrants? Or a list of potential acquisition targets in a specific city? How about due diligence on a company you’re considering making an angel investment in? On-demand project-based consultants can find research just about anything these days.

Create business plans and investor / fundraising decks. If you are a growing start-up, you need a solid business plan and a fundraising deck to convey your story to potential investors. Whether you have all the underlying information ready to create these documents, or you also need help with all the pieces of a business plan and investor deck, project-based consultants can help! For this kind of work, project-based consultants working in teams are best, as that enables the main consultant to pull together the various skill sets needed (researcher, financial model expert, designer, etc).

Branding and design work. Need brand guidelines for your company? Or help making your website or decks more polished? Design work is a great example of project-based work.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Project-based consultants can help your business with practically any question or problem.

Ready to get started? I’m partial to FlexTeam for obvious reasons. But if you’d prefer to use a marketplace of consultants, instead of a one-stop-shop, you’ve got plenty of options. And if you’re already working with project-based consultants, may I recommend giving Liquid (brought to you by us at FlexTeam) a try .

Do you have a story of project-based work helping your business grow or overcome challenges? I’d love to hear it!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.